Philosophical Questions on Hume’s The Enquiry





Philosophical Questions on Hume’s The Enquiry

  1. Explain the Difference between Impressions and Ideas

Impressions and ideas comprise perceptions of the mind. The difference between these two aspects of perception arises from the disparity in vivacity and vigor. Using vivacity and vigor as the main markers for the distinction, impressions associate roughly to sensing while ideas to thought. Nevertheless, Hume provides a considerable dissimilarity between impressions and ideas. Firstly, impressions are more vivid perceptions that arise from sensation. They originate from the senses, sentiments and various mental phenomena. In contrast to impressions, ideas constitute less vivacious perceptions that are duplicates of the impressions (Kessler 330). They comprise attitudes, opinions or memories that gain connection to the impressions. The difference between impressions and ideas is evident in the example of witnessing a movie scene. Viewing a scene from a movie creates an immediate impression that allows one to experience authentic emotions. However, attempting to imagine the scene produces a faint depiction of the scene as well as weaker emotions. This implies the way that ideas contrast from impressions; ideas are faint copies of impression while impressions constitute real perceptions that arise from sensation, in this case, sight. This allows one to understand the disparity between ideas and impressions.

  1. Explain Matters of Fact

In attempting to explain the difference between Matters of Fact and Relations of Ideas, Hume focuses on Matters of Fact as an object of enquiry. To the philosopher, Matters of fact can be true or false depending on sensation. This is because their authenticity or falsehood depends on sense knowledge (Kessler 333). For instance, statements such as ‘the world is round’ and the ‘sky is red’ only illustrate empirical propositions. Thus, such propositions can be real or false. In simpler terms, Matters of Fact comprise the common truths that individuals learn based on experience. Individuals understand Matters of Fact by attaching significance to the association between Cause and Effect. This means that the experience a person faces influences him to suppose an unnoticed cause. However, Hume asserts that suppositions of causation between two situations are not true. Therefore, it is possible to deny causal associations without contradiction because causal connections are presumptions. Furthermore, Matters of Fact depend on senses for validation. This explains why Hume views them as subjective rather than objective. Assumptions are weak since they do not possess any proof to accompany their deductions. Without using reason to understand an occurrence, then it is worthless to attach causation as a means of explaining a certain incidence.

  1. Explain Relations of Ideas

According to Hume, Relations of Ideas are typical mathematical facts. Relations of ideas simply associate ideas to other ideas. They are analytic statements since reason dictates whether they are true or false (Kessler 334). Thus, they are objective since they do not use sense knowledge unlike the Matters of Fact. Usually, analytic statements can be real or fake. They are evident in math and reason. For instance, statements such as ‘squares have four sides’ and ‘7 X 7=49’ are forever true. However, based on the senses, these assertions are not always true. This is because it is pragmatically impossible to observe words such as ‘forever’ or ‘never’. For instance, if one multiplies 7 and 7, the answer is always 49. This statement is empirically discernible. However, it is impossible to observe elements such as numbers or shapes empirically. Furthermore, Relations of Ideas base facts on reason. Reason does not possess any knowledge regarding the empirical facts that offer scientific data. This illustrates that reason functions with ideas instead of empirical reality. Therefore, even though it is possible to dismiss assertions arising from Matters of Fact, it is controversial to do that regarding Relations of Facts. Since Relations of Ideas comprises mathematical truths, it would be difficult to negate them and not expect a significant contradiction.

  1. Explain the Reductionist Method (RM)

The Reductionist Method simply involves reducing ideas to simple impressions within sensation. Ideas that are capable of undergoing reduction to impressions are ideas rooted in empirical reality. Additionally, ideas incapable of undergoing reduction to impressions are ideas associated to other ideas. For instance, Hume provides two instances of ideas capable of reduction to impressions, a golden mountain and a virtuous horse. Individuals have ideas concerning ‘golden’ and ‘mountain’ since they possess sensory impressions of gold and mountain. This is similar for a virtuous horse since individuals possess impressions regarding virtue and horse. In simpler terms, the Reductionist Method allows one to study an idea as a collection of impressions. Thus, the method focuses on breaking down ideas in order to study them as collections of simple impressions. Additionally, the Reductionist Method breaks down impressions and ideas. According to Hume, simple impressions comprise the raw information arising from experiences (Kessler 335). As such, these elements form an individual’s experience concerning a certain object. These impressions coalesce to constitute a complex impression. The same notion applies for ideas. Hume denotes that all ideas arise from experience. As such, they also originate from impressions. Therefore, the complex idea of an object may gain understanding when the Reductionist Method reduces the object to a set of simple ideas.

  1. Explain How the RM Applies to the Idea of God

The Reductionist Method applies exclusively to the idea of God. For Hume, the idea of God originates from imagination. Hume asserts that augmenting without limit the qualities that God possesses such as wisdom, intelligence and goodness, is something that is empirically unobservable (Kessler 337). Since the idea of God illustrates a perfect and infinite being, then it is impossible to reduce such ideas of perfection and infinity to mere impressions in sensation. However, for Hume, such ideas comprise imperfection and finite can undergo limitless escalation via the imagination. Since imagination is limitless, the ideas of imperfection and finite can escalate to impressions of perfection and infinity. Furthermore, Hume would assume that empirical reality does not allow one to experience perfection and infinity. Therefore, the Reductionist Method would clearly assert that God’s existence is not empirically observable. This is because the method reduces ideas with some form of empirical data to simple impressions. However, the idea of God lacks empirical data. Therefore, the Reductionist Method, which disregards the aspect of causation, assumes that the idea of God is unobservable since there is the absence of empirical basis for assuming that God’s existence is real.

  1. Explain How the RM Applies to the Idea of the Soul

The Reductionist Method also applies similarly regarding the Idea of the Soul. The soul receives description as immortal. However, individuals do not possess any idea of what constitutes immortality. Therefore, it is impossible to reduce the soul to mere impressions of sensation. As mentioned, an impression is data arising from experience. Similarly, an idea also has experience as its source (Kessler 440). However, no individual experiences immortality. This makes it impossible to reduce the idea of the soul based on the assertion that one does not possess an impression of what constitutes immortality. Furthermore, there is the absence of empirical or scientific data to prove the existence of immortality. Therefore, the Reductionist Method is incapable of reducing the idea of the soul based on the absence of supporting empirical data. Hume’s Reductionist Method would also apply the impossibility of reducing the idea of the soul. This is because immortality represents infinity. However, infinity is only achievable through imagination, which is limitless. Thus, it is not something experienced but rather imagined. Therefore, it is impossible to reduce such an idea since it lacks empirical data to prove its existence.

  1. Explain How the RM Applies to Rene’s “I” or “Ego”

Hume’s Reductionist Method disagrees with Rene’s “I” or “Ego”. Firstly, Hume argued against the “I” in ‘I Think, Therefore I am’ and ‘I am a thinking thing’. He argued that when individuals think of themselves, they deduce disparate and anecdotal identities. This is true for Hume since he reasons that people at younger ages possess different personalities when they are older (Kessler 443). Even though an individual perceives himself as the same person regardless of change in age, he is different in his current state. Therefore, Hume’s Reductionist Method applies objectively to Rene’s “I” by asserting it is impossible for the “I” to remain the same irrespective of the difference in time. Additionally, the Reductionist Method also applies uniquely to Rene’s “Ego”. Hume disagrees with Rene regarding the placement of the Ego in society. According top Hume, the ego is a fabrication of the mind. Therefore, it does not exist in reality. Additionally, this assertion relates to the concept of imagination. Since imagination exists in the mind, then ego, which originates from the same source, is also a product of imagination. Therefore, the Reductionist Method applies that Rene’s “Ego” is empirically unobservable since it originates from the mind.


Works Cited

Kessler, E. Gary. Voices of Wisdom: A Multicultural Philosophy Reader. New York: Wadsworth, 2008. Print







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